human rights council

 

  • Burundi: progrès depuis les élections de 2020, mais les abus persistent

    Déclaration au Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies 
    Par Cyriaque Nibitegeka

    CIVICUS et les organisations indépendantes de la société civile burundaise saluent le travail important de la Commission d'enquête et remercient la Commission pour sa mise à jour.  

    Nous nous félicitons de la grâce présidentielle accordée à quatre journalistes du groupe de presseIwacu, qui avaient été poursuivis pour avoir enquêté sur les activités des rebelles dans le pays en octobre 2019. Nous nous félicitons également du retour d'environ 3 000 réfugiés du Rwanda, qui avaient été précédemment contraints de fuir le pays. 

    Mais de graves violations des droits de l'homme et des abus ont continué depuis les élections de 2020, souvent dans le but de priver le principal parti d'opposition d'opportunités de se réorganiser. Elles sont principalement commises par des membres de la ligue de jeunesse Imbonerakure du parti au pouvoir et par des fonctionnaires locaux qui continuent de jouir d'une impunité presque totale, souvent avec la participation ou le soutien tacite des forces de sécurité. 

    Plusieurs personnes rentrées récemment d’exil sont portées disparues et les exécutions extrajudiciaires, arrestations et détentions arbitraires des membres de l’opposition sont loin de cesser. Pour le seul mois de février, on dénombre au moins 17 cas d’exécution extrajudiciaire, 170 cas de détention arbitraire et 5 cas de torture. Qui plus est, Germain Rukuki, un activiste de droits de l’homme condamné à 32 ans de prison en Avril 2018 est toujours privé de liberté. 

    Nous appelons le gouvernement à libérer sans condition tous les détenus politiques, y compris les militants et les défenseurs des droits de l'homme. 

    La nouvelle administration burundaise a encore la possibilité de rétablir les relations du Burundi avec les mécanismes des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies. Nous demandons à la commission de donner des précisions sur les possibilités d’obtenir à nouveau l'engagement du gouvernement burundais pour la mise en œuvre de ses conclusions et recommandations, en particulier en ce qui concerne la responsabilité et la réforme à long terme.


    L'espace civique au Burundi est classé comme "Fermé" par CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • #HRC50: Call for Urgent Debate on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan

    Open letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States to the UN Human Rights Council

    Excellencies,

    We, the undersigned civil society organisations, urge you to call for and support an urgent debate at the 50th session of the UN Human Rights Council regarding the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan. We further urge you to support a resolution responding to this crisis.

    Since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country, there has been an enormous deterioration in the recognition and protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, including with respect to the rights to non-discrimination, education, work, public participation, health, and sexual and reproductive health. The Taliban has also imposed sweeping restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement for women and girls. Afghanistan is now the only country in the world to expressly prohibit girls’ education.

    In the last few weeks, the situation has worsened dramatically, with a Taliban directive that women and girls must fully cover themselves in public, including their faces, and leave home only in cases of necessity. International investigations, witness testimony and video evidence indicate that women human rights defenders and others protesting against the restrictions and violations have been subject to home invasions, threats, abductions, enforced disappearances, and assaults with electric devices and chemical sprays.

    On 17 May 2022, the Taliban dissolved the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, cutting off a crucial source of support for Afghans facing violations of their human rights, including women and girls experiencing gender-based violence.

    On 26 May 2022, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Afghanistan concluded his country mission by describing recent measures as ‘fitting a pattern of absolute gender segregation…aimed at making women invisible in society’.

    This is the most serious women’s rights crisis in the world today, and the most serious women’s rights crisis since the Taliban took over Afghanistan the last time in 1996.

    Consistent with the mandate conferred under General Assembly resolution 60/251 that the Human Rights Council address situations of gross and systematic human rights violations, it is imperative that the Council consider and take action on the women’s rights crisis in Afghanistan in a manner reflecting the gravity and urgency of the situation. At the Council’s forthcoming 50th session the High Commissioner will provide an oral update on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, followed by an interactive dialogue. In our view, this interactive dialogue, which will consider the situation in the country in general, should be complemented by an urgent debate providing a dedicated focus on women’s and girls’ rights, gender equality, and the situation for women human rights defenders in the country.

    The purposes of an urgent debate could include:

    1. To unequivocally condemn the huge regression in the recognition, protection and realisation of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan;
    2. To express solidarity and support for women and girls in and from Afghanistan, including women human rights defenders who continue to advocate for equality and non-discrimination despite the threats and risks;
    3. To provide a platform and opportunity for women human rights defenders from Afghanistan, together with other independent civil society actors, to share their experiences, expertise, recommendations and demands;
    4. To provide a platform and opportunity for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan to brief the Council on the preliminary findings and recommendations from his country visit of 15 to 26 May; and
    5. To request that the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan and the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls prepare a report on the situation to be presented and discussed at the Council and ensure that they are adequately resourced to do this.

    Recognition and protection of gender equality is both a human rights obligation and essential to achieve peace, justice and sustainable development in Afghanistan. These grave and systematic violations of women’s rights demand an urgent and proportionate response. It would be unacceptable for the June session of the Council, traditionally the session focused on gender-related issues, to pass without dedicated attention and action on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. We consider that an urgent debate and substantive resolution are part of an appropriate response and urge you to take and support action in this regard.

    Yours faithfully,

    1. Afghan Women's Educational Center
    2. Aid Afghanistan for Education
    3. Amnesty International
    4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    5. Center for Reproductive Rights
    6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Civic Participation
    7. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
    8. Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights
    9. DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
    10. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
    11. Freedom Now
    12. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
    13. Global Justice Center
    14. Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP)
    15. Human Rights Watch
    16. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    17. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    18. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
    19. Malala Fund
    20. OutRight Action International
    21. Social Association for Development of Afghanistan
    22. Women & Children Legal Research Foundation
    23. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
    24. Women's Refugee Commission
    25. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • 14 États membres élus au Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies

    Le 17 octobre, 14 nouveaux États membres ont été élus au Conseil des droits de l'homme, comprenant 47 États membres, pour le mandat 2020-2022.

    Parmi eux, onze États ont été classés comme ayant un espace civique "rétréci" ou pire par le Monitor CIVICUS, une plate-forme qui suit l'état des libertés de la société civile dans le monde entier. 

    Dans le groupe régional Amérique latine et Caraïbes, le Brésil et le Venezuela, respectivement considérés comme "obstrué" et "réprimé", ont été élus lors d'un scrutin tripartite avec le Costa Rica, qui est considéré comme "ouvert". Nous regrettons que les États n'aient pas saisi l'occasion offerte par la candidature tardive du Costa Rica pour renforcer le Conseil des droits de l'homme, ce qui ne peut se faire que par une adhésion déterminée à coopérer avec ses mécanismes et à défendre ses objectifs et valeurs.

    Depuis l'arrivée au pouvoir de l'actuel gouvernement brésilien en 2018, le pays a connu une augmentation de la rhétorique violente et, au cours de l'année écoulée, une réduction de la protection des droits humains et une remise en cause des mécanismes du Conseil des droits de l'homme. Cela est bien loin du comportement que tout membre du Conseil devrait adopter, et nous sommes particulièrement préoccupés par la réélection du Brésil étant donné son influence dans la région et au-delà.

    Il y a tout juste un mois, un rapport présenté à la 42ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme par le Haut Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme faisait état de violations graves des droits humains par le gouvernement vénézuélien, notamment des arrestations arbitraires, des tortures et des exécutions extrajudiciaires. Néanmoins, 105 États membres de l'Assemblée générale des Nations Unies ont voté pour l'adhésion du Venezuela au Conseil. L'élection du Brésil et du Venezuela par les États membres de l'ONU aux dépens du Costa Rica mine gravement les engagements du Conseil des droits de l'homme.

    La Namibie ("rétréci"), la Libye ("fermé"), la Mauritanie ("réprimé") et le Soudan ("fermé") ont remporté les quatre sièges disponibles pour le groupe Afrique. Le Bénin s'est également présenté aux élections. Nous exhortons le gouvernement de transition du Soudan à prendre des mesures pour que les auteurs de violations des droits humains commises dans le passé répondent pleinement de leurs actes et à saisir cette occasion pour jouer un rôle plus constructif au sein de la communauté internationale en tant que défenseur des droits humains, étant donné sa position stratégique dans la Corne de l'Afrique. Les graves violations des droits humains qui continuent d'être commises en Libye la rendent inapte à l'adhésion et nous demandons instamment au Conseil des droits de l'homme d'indiquer clairement que l'adhésion ne l'empêche pas d'être soumise à un examen international permanent.

    L'Arménie ("obstrué") et la Pologne ("rétréci") ont remporté les deux sièges disponibles du Groupe des États d'Europe orientale, élus au détriment de la République de Moldavie ("obstrué"). Dans le Groupe Asie-Pacifique, l'Indonésie ("obstrué"), le Japon ("rétréci"), les Îles Marshall ("ouvert") et la République de Corée ("rétréci") ont remporté les quatre sièges disponibles au détriment de l'Irak, qui s'était également présentée aux élections. Nous exhortons ces nouveaux États membres à profiter de leur élection au Conseil des droits de l'homme pour renforcer leur engagement en faveur des droits humains et de l'espace civique.

    L'Allemagne ("ouvert") et les Pays-Bas ("ouvert") occupent les sièges restants du Groupe des États d'Europe occidentale et des autres Groupes, sans opposition.

    L'élection d'un si grand nombre d'États dont le bilan en matière de libertés civiques est déplorable signifie que l'engagement de la société civile au Conseil lui-même est encore plus vital, pour que les gens puissent se faire entendre au niveau international, ce qui leur est refusé au niveau national. Nous demandons instamment au Conseil des droits de l'homme de protéger et de renforcer la place de la société civile au sein de toutes les institutions multilatérales.
     
    CIVICUS se réjouit de travailler avec les délégations à Genève qui partagent notre vision et celle de nos membres, des droits humains universels. Nous continuerons à travailler avec la société civile dans chaque État membre pour renforcer l'espace civique sur le terrain et pour demander des comptes aux États qui cherchent à réprimer la voix de la société civile.

     

  • 14 member states elected to UN Human Rights Council

    Last week (17 October), 14 new member states were elected to the 47-member state Human Rights Council for the 2020-2022 term.

    Among them were 11 states with a rating of ‘narrowed’ or worse by the Civic Space Monitor, a platform which tracks the state of civil society freedoms worldwide.

    In the Latin America and Caribbean regional group, Brazil and Venezuela, respectively rated as obstructed and repressed, were elected in a three-way contest with Costa Rica, which is rated as open. We regret that states did not take the opportunity presented by Costa Rica’s late-stage candidacy to build a stronger Human Rights Council, which can only be achieved through a membership committed to cooperating with its mechanisms and upholding its aims and values.

    Since the current administration of Brazil came to power in 2018, the country has seen an increase in violent rhetoric and, over the last year, a curtailment of human rights protections and undermining of Human Rights Council mechanisms. This falls far short of the behavior which any member of the Council should demonstrate, and we are particularly concerned by Brazil’s reelection given its influence in the region and beyond. 

    Just one month ago, a report presented at the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights detailed serious human rights violations by the Venezuelan government, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions. Nevertheless, 105 states at the UN General Assembly states voted for Venezuela to join the Council. The election of Brazil and Venezuela by UN member states at the expense of Costa Rica’s membership severely undermines the commitments of the Human Rights Council.
     
    Namibia (narrowed), Libya (closed), Mauritania (repressed) and Sudan (closed) won the four seats available to the Africa group. Benin also stood for election. We urge the transitional government of Sudan to take steps towards ensuring full accountability for past human rights violations, and to use this opportunity to play a more constructive role in the international community as an advocate for human rights given its strategic position in the Horn of Africa. The ongoing serious human rights violations in Libya makes it unfit for membership and we urge the Human Rights Council to make clear that membership does not preclude it from continued international scrutiny.

    Armenia (obstructed) and Poland (narrowed) took the two open Eastern European Group seats, elected over the Republic of Moldova (obstructed). In the Asia-Pacific Group, Indonesia (obstructed), Japan (narrowed), Marshall Islands (open) and Republic of Korea (narrowed) won the four available seats over Iraq, which had also stood for election. We urge these new members states to use their election to the Human Rights Council as an opportunity to strengthen their commitments to human rights and civic space.

    Germany (open) and the Netherlands (open) take the remaining Western European and Others Group seats, having stood unopposed. 

    The election of so many states with poor civic freedoms records means that civil society engagement at the Council itself is even more vital in order for people to be given a voice at the international level that is denied to them at the national level, and we urge the Human Rights Council to protect and enhance space for civil society within all multilateral institutions.
     
    CIVICUS looks forward to working with the delegations in Geneva which share our vision, and that of our members, for universal human rights. We will continue to work with civil society in every member state to strengthen civic space on the ground, and to hold to account states which seek to repress the voices of civil society.

     

  • 5 countries on civic space watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Watch us deliver our statement below:

     

    Dear Madame President,

    Research findings by the CIVICUS Monitor show a serious and rapid decline in respect for civic freedoms in IndiaLebanonIraq, Nicaragua, and Guinea(countries on current civic space watchlist)

    In India, protests against a discriminatory citizenship law have been met with excessive force and deadly violence by the authorities, with at least 50 killed, and hundreds injured. There has been no independent and impartial investigation into the police violence. Hundreds have also been detained on spurious charges, including human rights defenders.

    In Lebanon, peaceful protests have been subjected to severe and unwarranted violence by the authorities. About a thousand protestors have been arrested or detained while many have experienced torture or ill-treatment while in detention.

    In Iraq, activists and journalists have been abducted, arbitrarily arrested and murdered in order to prevent them from participating in or covering demonstrations that broke out in October 2019.  Since the outset of the protests, hundreds of protestors have been killed at the hands of security forces.

    In Nicaragua, we are seriously concerned by the lack of political will to stop the repression of fundamental civic freedoms and to address the current human rights crisis. We call on this council to support a strong resolution on Nicaragua as the situation continues to worsen.

    In Guinea, mass protests which begun in October 2019 against government plans to replace the Constitution, have been met with excessive force. The killing of protesters and bystanders has been met with almost complete impunity. 

    Such restrictions on civic space are often a precursor for further human rights abuses and we call on the members and observers of this Council to act now to prevent further deterioration.

    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed

     


    See our wider advocacy priorities and programme of activities at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council

     

  • 5 countries on CIVICUS Monitor watchlist presented to UN Human Rights Council

    Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    This Council has identified restrictions on fundamental freedoms as a warning sign of an impending human rights crisis. Five countries were highlighted in the latest CIVICUS Monitor Watchlist, which puts a spotlight on a group of countries where there has been a rapid decline in respect for civic space. 

    These include Myanmar, where a military coup has led to deaths of at least 50 protesters, and the arbitrary detention of more than a thousand activists, protesters and politicians, while journalists are targeted daily. 

    In Nicaragua, there has been systematic repression of demonstrations. Human rights defenders, journalists and perceived political opponents face criminalisation and harassment, and a recent onslaught of repressive laws hinders civic space still further.

    In Poland, months of ongoing protests sparked by a near-total ban on abortion have been met with excessive force by authorities and far-right groups. Laws and reforms which undermine judicial independence and the rule of law have been passed since 2015 and media freedom is under threat. 

    In Russia, there have been large scale attacks on peaceful assembly and journalists during the massive nationwide peaceful protests. Over 10,000 protesters have been detained.

    In Togo, where civic space has been backsliding since 2017, the detention of a journalist and trade unionists and the suspension of a newspaper are recent examples highlighting the deterioration in the respect of civic freedoms.

    The Council cannot fulfill its protection or prevention mandates unless it is prepared to take meaningful action in situations which show such warning signs. We call for stronger scrutiny on Myanmar and Nicaragua to be brought by the Council this session, and for due attention on Poland, Russia and Togo to prevent deteriorating situations on the ground. 

    Civic space ratings by CIVICUS Monitor
    Open Narrowed Obstructed  Repressed Closed

     

     

  • 5 países de la lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS se presentan al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

     

    Declaración en el 46º período de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

    Este Consejo ha identificado las restricciones a las libertades fundamentales como una señal de alarma de una inminente crisis de derechos humanos. Cinco países han sido destacados en la última lista de vigilancia de CIVICUS Monitor, la cual pone el punto de mira un grupo de países en los que se ha producido un rápido declive del respeto al espacio cívico.

    Entre ellos se encuentra Myanmar, donde un golpe militar ha provocado la muerte de al menos 50 manifestantes y la detención arbitraria de más de mil activistas, manifestantes y políticos, mientras que los periodistas son objeto de ataques diarios.

    En Nicaragua se ha producido una represión sistemática de las manifestaciones. Los defensores de derechos humanos, los periodistas y los presuntos opositores políticos sufren criminalización y acoso. Además, una reciente oleada de leyes represivas obstaculiza aún más el espacio cívico.

    En Polonia, las autoridades y los grupos de extrema derecha han respondido con una fuerza excesiva a los meses de protestas desencadenadas por la prohibición casi total del aborto. Desde 2015 se han aprobado leyes y reformas que socavan la independencia judicial y el Estado de derecho. Asimismo, la libertad de los medios de comunicación está amenazada.

    En Rusia se han producido agresiones a gran escala contra las reuniones pacíficas y los periodistas durante las masivas protestas pacíficas a nivel nacional. Más de 10.000 manifestantes han sido detenidos.

    En Togo, donde el espacio cívico se ha visto limitado desde 2017, la detención de un periodista y de sindicalistas y la suspensión de un periódico son ejemplos recientes que ponen de manifiesto el deterioro del respeto a las libertades cívicas.

    El Consejo no puede cumplir sus mandatos de protección o prevención a menos que esté preparado para tomar medidas significativas en situaciones que muestren tales señales de alerta. Pedimos que el Consejo lleve a cabo un examen más riguroso de Myanmar y Nicaragua en este periodo de sesiones, y que preste la debida atención a Polonia, Rusia y Togo para evitar el deterioro de la situación sobre el terreno.

    Calificaciónes de espacio cívico - CIVICUS Monitor
    Abierto Estrecho Obstruido  Represivo Cerrado

     

     

  • 5 países en la lista de vigilancia del espacio cívico presentada al Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU

    Declaración en el 43º período de sesiones del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas


    Los resultados de la investigación del CIVICUS Monitor muestran un serio y rápido declive en el respeto de las libertades cívicas en la India, Líbano, Irak, Nicaragua y Guinea (países que figuran en la actual lista de vigilancia del espacio cívico)

    En la India, las protestas contra una ley discriminatoria en materia de ciudadanía han sido reprimidas por las autoridades con una fuerza excesiva y una violencia mortal, con al menos 50 muertos y cientos de heridos. No se ha realizado ninguna investigación independiente e imparcial sobre la violencia policial. También se ha detenido a centenares de personas con acusaciones falsas, incluidos defensores de los derechos humanos.

    En el Líbano, las protestas pacíficas han sido objeto de una violencia grave e injustificada por parte de las autoridades. Alrededor de un millar de manifestantes han sido arrestados o detenidos, mientras que muchos han sufrido torturas o malos tratos durante su detención.

    En Irak, activistas y periodistas han sido secuestrados, detenidos arbitrariamente y asesinados para impedir que participen en las manifestaciones que se iniciaron en octubre de 2019.  Desde el comienzo de las protestas, cientos de manifestantes han sido asesinados a manos de las fuerzas de seguridad.

    En Nicaragua, nos preocupa seriamente la falta de voluntad política para poner fin a la represión de las libertades cívicas fundamentales y para hacer frente a la actual crisis de derechos humanos. Hacemos un llamamiento a este Consejo para que apoye una resolución firme sobre Nicaragua, ya que la situación sigue empeorando.

    En Guinea, las protestas masivas que comenzaron en octubre de 2019 contra los planes del gobierno de reemplazar la Constitución, han sido enfrentadas con excesiva fuerza. El asesinato de manifestantes y transeúntes ha sido recibido con casi total impunidad. 

    Esas restricciones del espacio cívico suelen ser un precursor de nuevos abusos de los derechos humanos y pedimos a los miembros y observadores de este Consejo que actúen ahora para evitar un mayor deterioro.

    Calificaciones del espacio cívico por CIVICUS Monitor
    Abierto     Estrecho Obstruido Represivo Cerrado

     

    Consulte nuestras prioridades de abogacía y programa de actividades en la 43ª sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas

     

  • 5 pays sur la liste de surveillance de l'espace civique présentés au Conseil des droits de l'homme

    Déclaration à la 43ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies

    Les résultats des recherches menées par le CIVICUS Monitor montrent un déclin grave et rapide du respect des libertés civiques en Inde, au Liban, en Irak, au Nicaragua et en Guinée (pays figurant sur la liste actuelle de surveillance de l'espace civique)

    En Inde, les protestations contre une loi discriminatoire sur la citoyenneté ont été accueillies avec une force excessive et une violence mortelle par les autorités, faisant au moins 50 morts et des centaines de blessés. Aucune enquête indépendante et impartiale n'a été menée sur les violences policières. Des centaines de personnes ont également été détenues sur la base d'accusations fallacieuses, notamment des défenseurs des droits humains.

    Au Liban, les manifestations pacifiques ont été soumises à des violences graves et injustifiées de la part des autorités. Un millier de manifestants ont été arrêtés ou détenus, et beaucoup ont subi des tortures ou des mauvais traitements pendant leur détention.

    En Irak, des militants et des journalistes ont été enlevés, arrêtés arbitrairement et assassinés afin de les empêcher de participer ou de couvrir les manifestations qui ont éclaté en octobre 2019.  Depuis le début des manifestations, des centaines de manifestants ont été tués par les forces de sécurité.

    Au Nicaragua, nous sommes sérieusement préoccupés par le manque de volonté politique de mettre fin à la répression des libertés civiques fondamentales et de faire face à la crise actuelle des droits humains. Nous appelons ce Conseil à soutenir une résolution forte sur le Nicaragua alors que la situation continue de s'aggraver.

    En Guinée, les protestations de masse qui ont commencé en octobre 2019 contre les projets du gouvernement de remplacer la Constitution ont été accueillies avec une force excessive. Les meurtres de manifestants et de passants ont été commis dans une impunité quasi totale. 

    De telles restrictions de l'espace civique sont souvent le prélude à de nouvelles violations des droits humains et nous appelons les membres et les observateurs de ce Conseil à agir maintenant pour empêcher toute nouvelle détérioration.

    Les évaluations de l'espace civique par le CIVICUS Monitor
    Ouvert Rétréci Obstrué  Reprimé Fermé

     

    Voir nos priorités de plaidoyer et notre programme d'activités lors de la 43e session du Conseil des droits de l'homme des Nations unies

     

  • 750+ organizations highlight the vital role of the UN High Commissioner in calling out violators

    Joint NGO letter to the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 5 September 2018

    As local, national, regional, and international civil society organizations from every corner of the world, we offer warm congratulations on your appointment as United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

    We are committed to a world in which every person enjoys human rights and dignity and in which our communities are fair, just and sustainable. We consider that a strong High Commissioner, working in strategic partnership with independent civil society, can contribute significantly to the realization of this vision. 

    You take up office at a time when human rights are under attack and when we risk the reversal of many of the achievements of the modern human rights movement. We look to you in these troubled times to be an unwavering voice in the defence of human rights, and of victims, rights-holders and human rights defenders around the world. 

    On every continent, the rights of individuals, communities and peoples are being violated and abused by governments and non-state actors, often with complete impunity. Civil society, peaceful dissidents, and the media are often brutally silenced. The role of your Office in ensuring robust monitoring of, and reporting on, such situations is essential for curbing violations and deterring further abuse, as well as for ensuring justice and accountability. Technical-assistance and capacity building by the OHCHR is also critical and, to be effective, should be approached holistically alongside a rigorous assessment of the rights challenges in the country, including through key indicators to measure progress and assess the degree of engagement and cooperation by the State.

    As High Commissioner, you have a unique role to play in bringing country situations of concern to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies, particularly situations that may not be on their agenda or which receive limited attention, often because of political pressure. This role should extend to providing briefings to the Security Council on situations either on its agenda or that, if left unattended, could represent a threat to international peace and security.Monitoring missions and inter-sessional briefings to the HRC can be initiated at the High Commissioner’s prerogative, on the basis of your Office’s universal mandate, bringing attention to neglected country situations and contributing towards the achievement of the Council’s mandate to prevent human rights violations. 

    We are aware that the position of High Commissioner comes with its own challenges. Many States will insist you avoid “naming and shaming” and push you to engage in “quiet diplomacy” and to respect national sovereignty. Often, those most intolerant of criticism and most forceful in suppressing dissent will speak the loudest in seeking to mute your voice. Survivors, victims and defenders on the front line in countries where their rights are being violated will rely on you as a human rights champion, to have the courage and conviction to call out violators clearly and publicly, even when it’s challenging or unpopular with governments. 

    Globally, the rights essential to civic space are being systematically undermined. Civil society and human rights defenders face severe daily risks in their struggle to defend human rights on the ground, including imprisonment, asset-freezes, defamatory campaigns, torture, enforced disappearance, and even death. Risks are also present in the UN context, where individuals frequently face intimidation, harassment or reprisals for their engagement with the UN. We urge you to be a staunch defender of the rights of defenders both on the ground and at the UN, to publicly call out violators, and to undertake or push for investigations into attacks and reprisals. We also encourage you to take full advantage of the distinct, often innovative complementary role of civil society to the work of the OHCHR, and ensure the Office works closely with civil society as a strategic partner at the national, regional, and international levels. 

    Currently, the human rights framework itself is under unparalleled attack. Authoritarian populists are attacking the universality of human rights, disproportionately and unlawfully restricting rights in the purported interests of “national security,” often tacitly or openly encouraging attacks by their followers or vigilantes on rights defenders as well as the vulnerable and poor, while selectively interpreting human rights and seeking to co-opt or subvert human rights mechanisms to suit their political agendas. Safeguarding and strengthening universal human rights norms and mechanisms should be a core responsibility of the High Commissioner. 

    The current climate highlights the need for a strong public advocacy role for your mandate in the defence of international human rights law and the international human rights system, as well as a strong role internally within the UN to mainstream respect for human rights throughout the work of UN organs and agencies, and within the Sustainable Development Agenda.

    Once again, we congratulate you on your new role, and stand ready to support you and your Office in the fulfilment of your vital mandate. 

     

  • 85 CSOs concerned as Cuba is granted a new seat on UN Human Rights Council

    In response to Cuba’s election to a fifth term on the Human Rights Council, 85 Cuban and international human rights and freedom-of-expression organizations, in conjunction with independent media outlets, released the following statement: 

    We are deeply concerned about the decision to grant Cuba a new opportunity to have a seat on the Human Rights Council. This not only rewards Cuba’s poor human rights record, but it also undermines the integrity of the Council to hold abusive governments accountable for their actions in the region and across the globe.

    Nations with the honor of being part of the Council must be committed to international human rights law. The members of the Council should ensure that Cuba does not avoid responsibility for its own conduct or use its seat to weaken international human rights norms. As organizations dedicated to the protection and advancement of human rights, we will be vigilant, monitoring Cuba’s actions within the Council, certifying that human rights and fundamental freedoms are being respected and protected.  

    Background 

    On October 13, 2020, at the UN General Assembly, the international community granted a new seat on the Human Rights Council to Cuba. Since its founding in 2006, Cuba has already held one of the eight Human Rights Council seats distributed to Latin America and the Caribbean for four mandates. In Cuba’s 12 years on the Council, the country has only supported 66 of the 205 resolutions passed in response to serious human rights violations around the world.

    In all three cycles of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Cuba has received severe warnings about violations of freedom of association and expression, political persecution, arbitrary detentions, prohibitions on free domestic and international travel, absence of judicial independence, censorship, control of the internet, and the scarcity of media plurality. In July 2020, these violations even played out publicly at the Human Rights Council, with the Cuban representative and his allies censoring Cuban human rights defender Ariel Ruiz Urquiola through constant interruptions, as he discussed the crimes done to him and his sister by the Cuban government.

    At the global level, Cuba has not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, or the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Furthermore, the Cuban government has not provided an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which visits those imprisoned for crimes of a political nature, has been unsuccessful in accessing the island since 1989. Cuba is also the only country in the Americas that Amnesty International has been unable to visit since 1990.  

    In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2020 report, Cuba obtained a score of 14 points out of a possible 100 with respect to civil and political liberties, the lowest in Latin America. In 2019, International IDEA’s The Global State of Democracy 2019 report stated that Cuba ranked within the world’s bottom 25 percent for civil society participation, and is the only country in the region that has not taken significant steps towards a democratic transition in the last four decades. Classified as an authoritarian regime and ranked 143rd out of the 167 countries and territories featured in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2019, Cuba has also earned multiple low rankings by a number of human rights and freedom-of-expression organizations. For example, in its most recent report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted the Cuban government’s continued repression and punishment of dissent and public criticism through beatings, public denigration, travel restrictions, and arbitrary firings.

    In 2019, The Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded that “the grave neglect of elements essential to the freedom of expression, representative democracy and its institutions persists” in Cuba. Likewise, in its 2020 report on the human rights situation in Cuba, the IACHR identified a common pattern in the use of arbitrary detention as a method of harassment employed by the police and state security agents. According to organizations including Prisoners Defenders and Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, there are anywhere from 125 to 138 political prisoners in Cuba as of October 2020.

    The country continues to be, year after year, ranked among the worst in Latin America for press freedom, and is ranked 171st out of the 180 countries analyzed in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom index. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) includes Cuba on a list of 10 countries with the greatest level of censorship on the planet.

    Signatories:

    1. 14yMedio
    2. AC Consorcio, Desarrollo, Justicia
    3. ADNCuba
    4. Alas Tensas
    5. Alianza Democrática Oriental
    6. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
    7. Árbol Invertido
    8. Artículo 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica
    9. Asociación Cubana de Pequeños Emprendedores (ACPE)
    10. Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam
    11. Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
    12. Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba (ASIC)
    13. CADAL
    14. Centro Cubano de Derechos Humanos
    15. Centro de Justicia y Paz - Cepaz 
    16. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
    17. CIVICUS
    18. Civil Rights Defenders
    19. Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba
    20. Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)
    21. Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (CCPDH)
    22. Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial 
    23. Comunidad Judía Sefardita Bnei Anusim de Cuba
    24. Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba
    25. Corriente Agramontista (agrupación de abogados independientes cubanos)
    26. CubaLex
    27. CubaNet 
    28. Cultura Democrática
    29. Delibera Organización
    30. Demo Amlat 
    31. Demóngeles
    32. Diario de Cuba
    33. Editorial Hypermedia
    34. Espacio Público (Venezuela)
    35. Federación de Estudiantes de Derecho de Venezuela 
    36. Federación Venezolana de Estudiantes de Ciencias Políticas
    37. Foro Penal 
    38. Forum 2000 Foundation
    39. Freedom House
    40. Frente Democrático Estudiantil 
    41. Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (Ecuador).
    42. Fundación Nacional de Estudios Jurídico, Políticos y Sociales  
    43. Hearts on Venezuela
    44. Instar
    45. Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (ICLEP)
    46. Instituto La Rosa Blanca
    47. Instituto Patmos
    48. Instituto Político para la Libertad (IPL)
    49. Inventario
    50. Justicia, Encuentro y Perdón 
    51. Juventud Activa Cuba Unida
    52. La Hora de Cuba
    53. Libertad Cuba Lab
    54. Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana (MDJC)
    55. Ministerio Internacional Apostólico y Profético “Viento Recio”
    56. Ministerio Mujer a Mujer
    57. Movimiento para la Libertad de Expresión (MOLE) 
    58. Movimiento San Isidro
    59. Museo de la Disidencia en Cuba 
    60. Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos
    61. Observatorio de Libertad Académica (OLA)  
    62. OtroLunes - Revista Hispanoamericana de Cultura
    63. Outreach Aid to the Americas, Inc. (OAA)
    64. Palabra Abierta
    65. PEN America
    66. PEN Argentina
    67. PEN Club de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio
    68. PEN Internacional
    69. PEN Nicaragua
    70. People in Need (PIN)
    71. People in Need Slovakia
    72. Prisoners Defenders
    73. Programa Cuba 
    74. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
    75. Puente a la Vista 
    76. Red Apostólica Internacional Fuego y Dinámica RAIFD
    77. Red de Cultura Inclusiva
    78. Red Defensora de la Mujer (REDAMU)
    79. Red Femenina de Cuba 
    80. Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
    81. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    82. Solidaridad de Trabajadores Cubanos (STC)
    83. Tremenda Nota
    84. Un Mundo Sin Mordaza
    85. Yucabyte

     

  • 85 organizaciones de la sociedad civil expresan preocupación por el reingreso de Cuba al Consejo de DDHH de la ONU

    En respuesta a la elección de Cuba para su quinto mandato en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos, 85 organizaciones cubanas e internacionales de derechos humanos y libertad de expresión en conjunto con medios independientes de comunicación emitieron la siguiente declaración:  

    Nos preocupa profundamente la decisión de otorgarle a Cuba una nueva oportunidad para ocupar un puesto en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos.  Esto no sólo recompensa el pobre historial de Cuba en materia de derechos humanos, sino que también socava la integridad del Consejo para responsabilizar a los gobiernos abusivos por sus acciones en la región y en todo el mundo.  

    Las naciones que tienen el honor de integrar el Consejo deben comprometerse con el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos. Los miembros del Consejo deben asegurarse de que Cuba no eluda la responsabilidad de su propia conducta ni utilice su asiento para debilitar estas normas internacionales. Como organizaciones dedicadas a la protección y promoción de derechos humanos estaremos vigilantes, monitoreando las acciones de Cuba dentro del Consejo, certificando que los derechos humanos y las libertades fundamentales están siendo respetados y protegidos.  

    Antecedentes 

    En octubre 13 de 2020, en la Asamblea General de la ONU, la comunidad internacional otorgó a Cuba un nuevo asiento en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos. Desde su fundación en 2006, Cuba ocupó, en cuatro mandatos, uno de los ocho puestos del Consejo de Derechos Humanos correspondientes a América Latina y el Caribe. En los 12 años de Cuba en el Consejo, el país solo apoyó 66 de las 205 resoluciones aprobadas en respuesta a graves violaciones de derechos humanos en todo el mundo.   

    En los tres ciclos del Examen Periódico Universal Cuba ha recibido severos señalamientos sobre violaciones a la libertad de asociación y expresión, persecución política, detenciones arbitrarias, prohibiciones de transitar libremente por el territorio nacional y de viajar al extranjero, ausencia de independencia judicial, censura, control de Internet y escasa pluralidad de medios de comunicación. En julio de 2020, estas violaciones incluso se manifestaron públicamente en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos cuando el representante cubano y sus aliados censuraron al defensor de derechos humanos, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, mediante constantes interrupciones mientras hablaba sobre los crímenes cometidos contra él y su hermana por el gobierno cubano. 

      Cuba no ha ratificado el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, ni el Protocolo Facultativo de la Convención contra la Tortura y Otros Tratos o Penas Crueles, Inhumanos o Degradantes. Además, el Gobierno cubano no ha extendido una invitación al país al Relator Especial de la ONU sobre la Situación de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos. El Comité Internacional de la Cruz Roja, que visita a los presos por delitos de carácter político, no ha logrado ingresar a la isla desde 1989. Cuba es también el único país de la América que Amnistía Internacional no ha podido visitar desde 1990.   

    En el informe “Libertad en el Mundo 2020” de Freedom House, Cuba obtuvo una puntuación de 14 puntos de un posible de 100 con respecto a las libertades civiles y políticas, la más baja de América Latina. En 2019, el informe “El estado de la democracia en el mundo” de International IDEA declaró que Cuba se ubica entre el 25 por ciento más bajo del mundo en participación de la sociedad civil, y que es el único país de la región que no ha dado pasos significativos hacia una transición democrática en las últimas cuatro décadas. Clasificado como un régimen autoritario, en la posición 143 de los 167 países del “Índice de Democracia 2019” de The Economist Intelligence Unit, Cuba también ha obtenido múltiples clasificaciones bajas por parte de organizaciones de derechos humanos y libertad de expresión. Por ejemplo, en su informe más reciente, Human Rights Watch destacó la continua represión del gobierno cubano y el castigo de la disidencia y la crítica pública a través de palizas, denigración pública, restricciones de viaje y despidos laborales arbitrarios. 

    En 2019, la Relatoría Especial para la Libertad de Expresión de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos concluyó que en Cuba “persiste la grave inobservancia de los elementos esenciales de la libertad de expresión, la democracia representativa y sus instituciones”. Asimismo, en su informe de 2020 sobre la situación de derechos humanos en Cuba, la CIDH identificó un patrón común en el uso de la detención arbitraria como método de hostigamiento empleado por la policía y por agentes de la Seguridad del Estado. Según organizaciones como Prisoners Defenders y Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, hay entre 125 y 138 presos políticos en Cuba en octubre de 2020.  

    El país sigue estando, año tras año, entre los peores calificados en materia de libertad de prensa en América Latina, y ocupa el puesto 171 de los 180 países analizados en el Índice Mundial de Libertad de Prensa 2020 de Reporteros sin Fronteras (RSF). El Comité para la Protección de los Periodistas (CPJ) incluye a Cuba en una lista de los 10 países con mayor nivel de censura del planeta. 

    Firmantes:

    1. 14yMedio
    2. AC Consorcio, Desarrollo, Justicia
    3. ADNCuba
    4. Alas Tensas
    5. Alianza Democrática Oriental
    6. Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información
    7. Árbol Invertido
    8. Artículo 19 Oficina para México y Centroamérica
    9. Asociación Cubana de Pequeños Emprendedores (ACPE)
    10. Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam
    11. Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP)
    12. Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba (ASIC)
    13. CADAL
    14. Centro Cubano de Derechos Humanos
    15. Centro de Justicia y Paz - Cepaz 
    16. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
    17. CIVICUS
    18. Civil Rights Defenders
    19. Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba
    20. Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)
    21. Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos (CCPDH)
    22. Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial 
    23. Comunidad Judía Sefardita Bnei Anusim de Cuba
    24. Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba
    25. Corriente Agramontista (agrupación de abogados independientes cubanos)
    26. CubaLex
    27. CubaNet 
    28. Cultura Democrática
    29. Delibera Organización
    30. Demo Amlat 
    31. Demóngeles
    32. Diario de Cuba
    33. Editorial Hypermedia
    34. Espacio Público (Venezuela)
    35. Federación de Estudiantes de Derecho de Venezuela 
    36. Federación Venezolana de Estudiantes de Ciencias Políticas
    37. Foro Penal 
    38. Forum 2000 Foundation
    39. Freedom House
    40. Frente Democrático Estudiantil 
    41. Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo (Ecuador).
    42. Fundación Nacional de Estudios Jurídico, Políticos y Sociales  
    43. Hearts on Venezuela
    44. Instar
    45. Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (ICLEP)
    46. Instituto La Rosa Blanca
    47. Instituto Patmos
    48. Instituto Político para la Libertad (IPL)
    49. Inventario
    50. Justicia, Encuentro y Perdón 
    51. Juventud Activa Cuba Unida
    52. La Hora de Cuba
    53. Libertad Cuba Lab
    54. Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana (MDJC)
    55. Ministerio Internacional Apostólico y Profético “Viento Recio”
    56. Ministerio Mujer a Mujer
    57. Movimiento para la Libertad de Expresión (MOLE) 
    58. Movimiento San Isidro
    59. Museo de la Disidencia en Cuba 
    60. Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos
    61. Observatorio de Libertad Académica (OLA)  
    62. OtroLunes - Revista Hispanoamericana de Cultura
    63. Outreach Aid to the Americas, Inc. (OAA)
    64. Palabra Abierta
    65. PEN America
    66. PEN Argentina
    67. PEN Club de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio
    68. PEN Internacional
    69. PEN Nicaragua
    70. People in Need (PIN)
    71. People in Need Slovakia
    72. Prisoners Defenders
    73. Programa Cuba 
    74. Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea)
    75. Puente a la Vista 
    76. Red Apostólica Internacional Fuego y Dinámica RAIFD
    77. Red de Cultura Inclusiva
    78. Red Defensora de la Mujer (REDAMU)
    79. Red Femenina de Cuba 
    80. Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe por la Democracia (REDLAD)
    81. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
    82. Solidaridad de Trabajadores Cubanos (STC)
    83. Tremenda Nota
    84. Un Mundo Sin Mordaza
    85. Yucabyte 

     

  • A clean and safe environment is a human right

    Joint statement by Earthjustice, Greenpeace, AIDA, Amnesty Internationa, CIEL, CIVICUS, CRIN, Human Rights Watch, The Global Initiative

    We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report which usefully identifies a wealth of governmental good practices in recognizing and implementing a right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

    The report highlights that 80% of UN member states have recognized this human right. It also shows that at least 90% UN member states have reported at least some good practices that reflect procedural and/or the substantive elements of this right. The report therefore shows that “environmental progress and the protection of human rights from environmental harm are possible”. While the report is clear that all states must urgently step up their action at all levels to adequately address the present “daunting and unprecedented global environmental crisis”, it also shows that global recognition of the right to a healthy environment is an essential ingredient of such efforts.

    Our organizations therefore call on the Human Rights Council to promptly adopt a resolution recognizing the right to a healthy environment. At a time when people from around the world, and particularly children, are increasingly concerned and mobilized by the environmental crisis, and environmental human rights defenders continue to face violence, states need to make this important move signaling their unequivocal intention to work towards the fulfillment of this right for all.

     

  • A joint call to the UN to Address human rights situation in the Russian Federation

    This statement is made on behalf of 8 organisations, who together call on the Human Rights Council to address the human rights situation in the Russian Federation.

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 42nd Session of UN Human Rights Council (September)

    The forty-second Session of the UN Human Rights Council will take place from 9 to 27 September.

    There are a variety of issues on the agenda this Session, both thematic and country-focused, and a number of human rights concerns that need to be addressed by the Council.

    One of the priorities for CIVICUS and its members is the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Despite a deal reached between the military and protesters in August, peaceful protesters continued to be killed on an almost daily basis. We join calls from local and international civil society for the Council to take immediate action to investigate and monitor human rights violations as a first step towards accountability and justice. The country is rated as closed on the CIVICUS monitor, representing its total lack of civic space and freedoms.

    Saudi Arabi, also rated as closed, remains a serious ongoing concern as the country continues its decades-long clampdown on dissent, human rights activism and independent reporting. Women human rights defenders are still detained, and reportedly subjected to torture, for leading campaigns for women’s rights. In October 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was extra-judicially murdered. CIVICUS, along with partners, will reiterate calls on the Council to establish a monitoring mechanism investigating human rights violations in the country and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained Saudi women human rights defenders and activists. Saudi Arabia is a member of the Human Rights Council. Members that flagrantly abuse human rights in their own territories undermine and delegitimise the work of the Council and should be held to higher standard of scrutiny.

    Cameroon, rated as ‘repressed’ in CIVICUS’s Monitor, continues to undergo a human rights crisis. In October 2016, protests in Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions, the North-West and South-West, triggered the country’s “Anglophone crisis.” Since then, the two regions have been embroiled in a cycle of violence and human rights violations and abuses committed by government forces and by separatist armed groups. Against this backdrop, space for civil society continues to be severely diminished, and we call on members of the Council to take constructive steps to address the situation.

    The Commission of Inquiry investigating human rights violations in Burundi will present its findings on the human rights situation in the country. We join calls for the HRC to renew the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry for a further year: with human rights violations ongoing, and 2020 elections approaching, ongoing scrutiny is crucial – particularly in the context of elections. Burundi is rates as ‘closed’ in CIVICUS’s Monitor, reflecting ongoing attacks on civil society members, human rights defenders and journalists.

    The Council’s spotlight will also fall on Cambodia when both the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights will deliver reports on the situation in the country. Civic space in Cambodia has been increasingly under attack – the country is rated as ‘repressed’ in CIVICUS’s monitor – and this Session will provide a crucial opportunity for the Council to strengthen its response to such attacks on fundamental freedoms, and other human rights violations. CIVICUS and our partners are calling for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate to be renewed, and for enhanced scrutiny of the country’s human rights obligations by the OHCHR.

    The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights will be reporting on the human rights crisis in Nicaragua, which the CIVICUS Monitor rates as ‘repressed’. Monitor findings show that freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly continue to be seriously curtailed by the government. Local civil society organisations have been stripped of their legal status and of their assets, and human rights defenders and journalists are harassed. Nicaragua continues to block the return of international human rights bodies to the country, including the special mechanism of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and OHCHR. CIVICUS joins local and international partners calling for continued scrutiny of Nicaragua’s human rights situation.

    The Assistant Secretary General on reprisals will present a report the Council, and the resolution on reprisals will be presented for a vote to the Council members. We are calling on states to support a strong resolution which names specific examples of reprisals, including against CIVICUS members. This is a vital resolution because UN action is only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account.

    A resolution on arbitrary detention will also be presented to the Council. This is a critical issue in terms of civic space: civil society members worldwide continue to face arbitrary detention as a result of their work. As well as being a serious human rights violation in its own right, this also contributes to a chilling effect on other civil society actors and human rights defenders.

    CIVICUS and members’ events at the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council:

    Civic space as an early warning system, 16 Sep, 1-2pm, Room IV

    This side event will explore the relationship between civic space crackdowns and broader human rights crises, with a view to discussing what potential early intervention from states and the Council could be taken on the basis of such attacks to elevate the Council’s preventative mandate and, ultimately, aim to stop countries spiraling into human rights crises.

    The continued silencing and imprisonment of Saudi women human rights defenders, 26 Sep, 9.30-10.30am, Room XXIV

    This panel will share the experiences of Saudi WHRDs and reflect on the reality they face in prison. Panelists, including Lina Al-Hathloul, the sister of detained human rights defender Loujain Al-Hathloul, will discuss the extent of the restrictions facing activists in Saudi Arabia and what further efforts can be taken internationally to ensure immediate release of WHRDs, including calling for a resolution from the UN Human Rights Council.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Croatia; Cuba; Czechia; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Nepal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Slovakia; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Togo; Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Uruguay.

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 43rd Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The four-week human rights council will sit from 24 February to 20 March, and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate, and for the 47 Council members to address. CIVICUS will be conducting and presenting evidence on a variety of thematic and country-focused issues. Full overview below or jump directly to see our programme of events.

    Country-specific situations

    Nicaragua (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    Our members on the ground have documented serious human rights violations, including attacks on fundamental freedoms and against human rights defenders and journalists. A report issued last year by the OHCHR, mandated by a resolution adopted in 2019, reflected this situation, and recommended enhanced UN monitoring and reporting. Given the lack of political will in the country to cooperate with regional and international mechanisms, and the concerning situation on the ground, CIVICUS calls on states to support a resolution on Nicaragua which calls for such enhanced reporting at the very least.

    Sri Lanka (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    This is a critical time for Sri Lanka, with concerns that the new administration which came to power last year could renege on its Council-mandated human rights and accountability commitments. The resolution adopted at the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council and remains the only process in place which could guarantee justice for victims of human rights violations. Civic space is closing at an alarming rate – since the new administration came to power, civil society members on the ground have been threatened and intimidated, their records destroyed, and human rights defenders and journalists have been attacked. CIVICUS calls for states to encourage cooperation between the government of Sri Lanka and international human rights mechanisms, and for Council members to reaffirm their commitment to resolution 40/1, which put into place time-bound commitments to implement the accountability mechanisms in resolution 30/1.

    Iran (Civic space rating:Closed)

    In 2019, Iran erupted into a series of protests against lack of political and democratic freedoms and the deteriorating economic situation. Protesters were met with violent repression through mass arrests and lethal force. Current geopolitical developments have entrenched the regime and exacerbated internal insecurity further. This Human Rights Council Session will discuss the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. CIVICUS supports the renewal of the Special Rapporteur mandate and encourages states to raise concerns about the use of lethal force in protests.

    India (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    India’s civic space rating was downgraded with the last CIVICUS report. A controversial and discriminatory citizenship law has given rise to mass protests across the country, which have been subject to violent crackdowns, leading many injured and at least 25 dead. Jammu and Kashmir remain under severe repression, including through sustained internet shutdown which is reaching its sixth month. Internet was partially restored in January but restrictions remain, making the shutdown the longest recorded in a democracy. Internet shutdowns are also being used across the country in order to hinder freedom of peaceful assembly. CIVICUS encourages States to raise concerns about India, and to call for an investigation into the violent suppression of peaceful protests, and to repeal discriminatory provisions in the Citizenship Law.

    Thematic mandates

    The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

    The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders will be renewed this Session. This is a crucial mandate which has an impact of all CIVICUS’s areas of focus, and we encourage states to eco-sponsor the resolution at an early stage. The Special Rapporteur will present his annual report on HRDs in conflict and post-conflict situations, and reports on his country visits to Colombia and Mongolia. CIVICUS encourages states to affirm their co-sponsorship of the resolution early in the Session.

    Freedom of Expression

    The mandate for the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression is set to be renewed this Session, at a time when internet blackouts in increasingly used as a tactic to limit freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of peaceful assembly. We encourage states to co-sponsor the renewal of this important mandate at an early stage.

    Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB)

    The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief will present his annual report, which this year focuses on the intersection of religion and belief and gender and SOGI rights, and reports on country visits to Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. CIVICUS will be engaging on Sri Lanka and on India, which have both undergone concerning developments with regards to freedom of religion.

    Prevention

    The Chair-Rapporteur of two intersessional seminars on the contribution that the Council can make to the prevention of human rights violations will present the report of the seminars.

    CIVICUS will be highlighting the connection between civic space and prevention – that closures in civic space are often precursors to wider human rights crises, and that by intervening at the civic space level, the Council has a role to play in ensuring that such human rights violations are prevented.


    CIVICUS and members’ events at the 43rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (events will be livestreamed @CIVICUS Facebook page):

    27 February (11:00 CET, Room VII), a side event will discuss the current critical situation in Nicaragua, and the importance of an enhanced monitoring mandate.

    2 March (14:00 CET, Room VII), CIVICUS and partners are organising an event on the constitutional and civic space crisis in India. 

    5 March (13:00 CET, Room VII), CIVICUS is co-sponsoring an event led by ICNL and the Civic Space Initiative consortium partners on countering terrorism financing while preserving civic space ----canceled due to the coronavirus

    12 March (12:30 CET, Room XXI), CIVICUS is co-sponsoring a side event on the use of lethal force in protests in Iran and Iraq, and responses from the international community---canceled due to the coronavirus

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan; Angola; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Croatia; Cuba; Czechia; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Denmark; Egypt; Eritrea; Fiji; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Mexico; Nepal; Nigeria; Pakistan; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Slovakia; Somalia; South Africa; Spain; Togo; Tunisia; Ukraine; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and Uruguay.

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 44th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The three-week human rights council sits from 30 June to 17 July, and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate, and for the 47 Council members to address. CIVICUS will be conducting and presenting evidence on a variety of thematic and country-focused issues. Full overview below:

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    Our members on the ground have documented serious human rights violations, including attacks on fundamental freedoms and against human rights defenders and journalists. Thousands of people have been killed in extra-judicial executions perpetrated by authorities with the full backing of the Duterte government in the context of their so-called ‘war on drugs'. Recently the country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist, while the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights released a damming report on the country. We urge member states to deliver a strong resolution during the council to hold the government to account.

    United States of America (Civic space rating:Narrowed)

    Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the United States to protest the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on 25 May. Their demands for justice for George Floyd and other Black people unlawfully killed at the hands of police have been met with force. The US has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor’s Watchlist as a result of attacks against protesters and the media. CIVICUS reaffirms that the right to protest, as enshrined in international law, must be protected.  CIVICUS urges the member states and observers of the Human Rights Council to raise such attacks in the Interactive Dialogues with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism.

    Eritrea (Civic space rating:Closed)

    As Eritrea has entered the second year of its Council membership term, its domestic human rights situation remains dire. A free and independent press continues to be absent from the country and 16 journalists remain in detention without trial, many since 2001. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations is widespread. Violations continue unabated, including arbitrary arrests and incommunicado detention, violations of the rights to a fair trial, access to justice and due process, enforced disappearances. During this session, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea is up for renewal. We urge States to support its adoption, in light of the lack of progress and accountability in the country.

    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    50 UN experts have called on the Human Rights Council to take immediate action on grave human rights abuses in China, including Hong Kong and Xinjiang. This week Hong Kong's new national security law came into force, risks destroying Hong Kong's  free and open civil society, including media outlets. Already someone has been arrested for displaying a pro-independence flag. Urgent action is needed. CIVICUS fully support the proposal from UN experts to establish a UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in China. At the very least, States should demand in dialogues that China fulfills its human rights obligations.

    Hungary (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    There has been a rapid decline in civic freedoms in Hungary. The government has criminalised fake news about the pandemic, with penalties of up to five years in prison. To date, the police have initiated criminal proceedings against nearly 100 people. During the pandemic, Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán was able to temporarily rule by decree, which has set a dangerous precedent for Orbán to further consolidate power, restrict rights and bypass constitutional safeguards. The country has been added to the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist. CIVICUS recommends that UN member states raise concerns about Hungary and how it has used COVID19 as a smokescreen to close civic space and target its critics.

    Thematic mandates

    Civic freedoms in the age of COVID-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated human rights challenges worldwide. As countries have grappled to respond, CIVICUS has documented multiple instances of such responses restricting civic space, including: 

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship
    • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers

    In a report that will be presented at this Session, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression set out a number of recommendations for States in order to guarantee freedom of expression during a pandemic. Chief among these was ‘Ensuring accountability, such that no State is free to use this public health crisis for unlawful purposes beyond the scope of the health threat.’

    Peaceful Protests

    This Session will see a resolution on peaceful protests debated by the Council. The resolution provides an opportunity to push for reforms of protest laws and police tactics, and to strengthen accountability frameworks for violations during protests. We urge States to propose language which reflects the current situation of impunity for violence against peaceful protesters by state and non-state actors.

    Human rights and Migration

    This Session, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and migration will deliver a report on migration and freedom of association, which included key recommendations for States to ensure that freedom of association is protected. We call on States to use the Interactive Dialogue on the Special Rapporteur’s report to make public commitments to protect the right to freedom of association for migrants, and to co-sponsor the resolution due for presentation at the Session which will renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 45th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 14 September - 6 October, 2020 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC45


    CIVICUS will be engaging on a range of issues in line with our mandate to protect and monitor the rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association. In terms of country-specific situations, CIVICUS will be presenting evidence and recommendations on rights abuses in the Philippines, Burundi, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia and China. With relation to thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on deliberations related to the prevention of human rights abuses, reprisals, and arbitrary detention. Full summaries below.

    Civil society Participation in times of COVID19
    Like last session, civil society participation has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Travel restrictions and distancing guidelines means that in-person participation is conspicuously limited, particularly for organisations from the Global South. Opportunities for remote participation via video messaging are providing a welcome alternative - because of this change, people and groups affected by issues being discussed will, to some extent, be able to address the Council without being limited by their ability to travel to Geneva, as is usually the case. But being able to meet with and hear directly from human rights defenders in the room and in-person, whether through side events or statements, has long been a strength of the Council. The human rights defenders who attend Council sessions strengthen resolutions by providing first-hand information and serve to hold states to account, and their participation reinforces valuable partnerships. Like last session, opportunities to do so in-person will be very much missed.

    see individual member country ratings - ...

    Country-specific situations

    The Philippines (Civic space rating:Obstructed)

    • Extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders continue
    • Abuse of COVID19 emergency measures to target government critics
    • Serious concerns remain over domestic accountability mechanisms, and impunity still reigns for attacks on activists and journalists.

    CIVICUS welcomed the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2019 (41st Session) which mandated welcome monitoring of the human rights situation in the Philippines. The subsequent report by the Office of The Human Commissioner on Human Rights, presented in July 2020 (44th Session) shows clearly that human rights violations remain rampant, and that accountability for such violations remains distant. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing human rights conditions still further; in June, the Philippines was added to CIVICUS’s Watchlist, reflecting its sharp decline in civic freedoms.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS joins civil society partners in the Philippines and internationally in calling for a Council-mandated independent investigative mechanism to address the ongoing systemic human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. This is clearly warranted by the situation set out in the OHCHR report, the lack of political will to engage and the demonstrable lack of adequate domestic investigative mechanisms.


    Burundi (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Elections in May were marred by violence and rights violations
    • The Youth league, the Imbonerakure, continue to carry out brutal attacks on critics of the government
    • Activists and journalists remain imprisoned, while hundreds of thousands remain in exile.

    An atmosphere of fear and violence prevails in Burundi, where state and powerful non-state actors are routinely allowed to imprison, seriously injure and kill people with impunity for attempting to exercise their rights to associate, peacefully assemble and express themselves. Any criticism of the ruling authorities is severely punished and there is virtually no media freedom. The internet is heavily censored, many websites are blocked and online criticism of power holders is subject to severe penalties.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS calls for the renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi. In the context of recent political developments, such a renewal, building off the investments to date in and from the CoI, would provide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in the country.


    Cambodia (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    • COVID-19 government measures have provided an opportunity to crack down on civil society groups.
    • At least 22 people have been arrested for sharing allegedly ‘false news’ related to the pandemic.
    • Opposition Leader, Kem Sokha, on trial since January on unsubstantiated charges of treason. Sokha has been barred from politics and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted

    The Cambodian government continues to crack down on civil society groups, independent media, and the political opposition and human rights defenders to silence critical voices in the country. In the past three years it has adopted a series of repressive laws that unduly restrict human rights. In November 2019, the Cambodian authorities had arbitrarily detained nearly 90 people solely on the basis of the peaceful expression of their opinions or political views as well as their political affiliations. The latest activists to be convicted of ‘incitement’, three employees of NGO Mother Nature, were sent to pre-trial detention on 6 September.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages States to deliver statements jointly or in a national capacity under the Item 10 interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia and the Item 2 general debate focusing on attacks against human rights defenders, journalists and other members of independent civil society, recommending a stronger approach to address the worsening situation. CIVICUS further encourages States to explore supporting a resolution which mandates yearly reporting from the High Commissioner, with updates in between Sessions.


    Saudi Arabia (Civic space rating: Closed)

    • It has been over two years since Saudi Arabia intensified its crackdown on women human rights defenders
    • Reports of detined activists and critics of the government being subjected to torture in prison
    • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to make direct orders for the arrest of activists

    It has been over two years since women human rights defenders have been in prison, simply for demanding that women be treated equally to men. Punishment in the country is severe, with torture being formed used for many offences, and the country remains one of the world’s top executioners. When it comes to freedom of assembly, protesting is considered a criminal act and those who defy the ban can face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.

    Recommendations
    States that flagrantly abuse human rights in their own territories undermine and delegitimise the work of the Council must be held up to scrutiny. Along with civil society partners, CIVICUS recommends that States ensure sustained attention by the Council at its 45th session by jointly reiterating calls on the Saudi government to implement the above-mentioned benchmarks, and by supporting the establishment of a monitoring and reporting mechanism over the situation.


    China (Civic space rating:Closed)

    • Mass detention, torture and mistreatment of millions of Uighurs and Turkic Muslims in Xianjang
    • Chinese Communist Party continues to censor reporting about COVID-19
    • Excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests around Hong Kong protests

    On 26 June 2020, an unprecedented 50 United Nations experts called for “decisive measures to protect fundamental freedoms in China.” They highlighted China’s mass human rights violations in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang, suppression of information in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and attacks on rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and critics of the government across the country. They also raised concerns about the decision to draft a national security law for Hong Kong  – without any meaningful consultation with the people of Hong Kong – which imposes severe restrictions on civil and political rights in the autonomous region. It was passed on 30 June 2020.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS endorses the call by UN experts for a Special Session of the Human Rights Council to evaluate the range of violations by China’s government, and to establish an impartial and independent UN mechanism to closely monitor, analyze, and report annually on that topic. We urge the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Envoy, consistent with his Call to Action on Human Rights, and we call on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to fulfil her independent mandate to monitor and publicly report on China’s sweeping rights violations. We support the call that UN member states and UN agencies use all interactions with Chinese authorities to insist that the government comply with its international human rights obligations.


    Thematic situations

    Prevention of human rights abuses
    The ability to take Council action with regards to prevention of deteriorating human rights situations relies on an accurate flow of information from the ground, whether from human rights defenders or independent media. Civil society – including human rights defenders, journalists, and human rights monitors – are often the first affected by a worsening human rights situation. An increasingly inability to express dissent, gather in protest, or operate as independent civil society is often a clear signpost that further human right violations are to come, to be met by willfully restricted avenues of domestic resistance. As an immediate example, in the case in Tanzania, time is fast running out for the HRC to operationalize its protection mandate in order to prevent further deterioration.

    In the report presented in March 2020 (the Council’s 43rd Session), the Rapporteurs highlighted this importance of civic space. As such, a resolution on the Council’s prevention mandate should highlight civic space restrictions as indicators for a worsening human rights situation. This would enable the Human Rights Council to take action to prevent severe human rights violations, including by working with the state in question constructively to roll back restrictions to civic space, before the situation becomes beyond repair. Specifically, that civil society indices, such as the CIVICUS Monitor, could be used to develop a more specific set of indicators and benchmarks relating to civic space which would then trigger intervention.

    Further intervention could be operationalized through a Working Group on Prevention or the country level mechanism in New York.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS encourages states to recommend that the use of such civic space indices is articulated in the resolution on the Council’s role in prevention. CIVICUS also recommends that states use civic space indicators in a systematic manner at the Human Rights Council in order to further operationalize its prevention mandate. This includes raising civic space concerns through individual and joint State statements at the Council, thematic debates, resolutions, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and special sessions and urgent debates.


    Reprisals
    UN initiatives are only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account. Reprisals have a significant impact on citizen participation at every level of the international human rights infrastructure and are another example of civic space being squeezed.

    There is no political cost to states engaging in reprisals, and we recommend that the new resolution incorporates an accountability mechanism. There are a number of emerging trends in types of reprisals leveled against individuals and civil society – false narratives driven on social media and the engagement of non-state actors being just two such escalating tends.

    Recommendations
    Often, the only deterrent to states engaging in this practice is to publicly name them. CIVICUS recommends that States use the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General to raise specific cases of reprisals – cases of reprisals in Egypt, Bahrain, Viet Nam and China are particularly prevalent. CIVICUS also recommends that reprisals taking place within the UN itself are highlighted.


    Arbitrary detention
    Popular action is on the rise across the globe as people take to the streets to demand justice, equity and democratic rights. But this has been mirrored by an unprecedented use of excessive force and arbitrary detention to silence the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of assembly. In 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor found that one of the most commonly-logged violations of civic rights was against the right to peaceful assembly. This trend looks set to continue, with States both weaponizing repressive laws in order to create justification for detention and arresting peaceful protesters on vague and ill-defined grounds.

    In July, the Human Rights Committee published its General Comment 37 on Article 21 of the ICCPR – the freedom of peaceful assembly. In its guidance relating to arbitrary detention around freedom of assembly, the GC highlights that ‘the procedural guarantees of the Covenant apply to issues such as detention in connection with peaceful assemblies’. It also states that ‘preventative detention of targeted individuals, to keep them from participating in assemblies, may constitute arbitrary deprivation of liberty, which is incompatible with the right of peaceful assembly’, and that practices of indiscriminate mass arrest prior to, during or following an assembly, are arbitrary and thus unlawful’.

    The CIVICUS Monitor as well as other monitoring trackers show that states are falling well short of this guidance. In India, thousands have been held in preventative detention in the context of CAA protests. In Iraq, approximately 3,000 demonstrators were detained during mass protests between October 2019 and April 2020. In Zimbabwe, a number of activists were arrested or abducted to prevent the protests from taking place. Belarus’ practice of mass detentions in the context of protest has prompted condemnation from the UN. Reports from the United States of unidentified police officers detaining protestors may also give rise to arbitrary detention. In Hong Kong, new security law allows for retroactive detention of protestors, well after the protests had ended.

    Recommendations
    CIVICUS recommends that States raise arbitrary detention in the context of protests in statements, jointly or in your national capacity, during the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and call on the Working Group to look specifically at this issue. CIVICUS further encourages States to name country situations in which individuals have been arbitrarily detained in the context of protests – for example the United States, Belarus, Zimbabwe.


    Current council members:

    Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Libya, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Senegal, Slovakia, SomaliaSudan, Spain, Togo, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

  • Advocacy priorities at 46th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 22 February - 23 March, 2021 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC46


    The 46th Session of the Human Rights Council presents challenges and opportunities for civil society engagement. We encourage States to continue to raise the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective. 

    We look forward to engaging on a range of issues in line with our civic space mandate, set out below. In terms of country-specific situations on the agenda of the Council, CIVICUS will be engaging on resolutions on Nicaragua, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and South Sudan. Other countries of serious concern as we approach the 46th Session include Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Russia.

    With relation to thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on the High Commissioner’s report on COVID and human rights, the Special Rapporteur’s report on human rights defenders, and the Special Rapporteur’s report on human rights and counter-terrorism

    Civil society Participation in times of COVID19
    Like last session, civil society participation has been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Travel restrictions and distancing guidelines means that in-person participation is conspicuously limited, particularly for organisations from the Global South. Opportunities for remote participation via video messaging are providing a welcome alternative - because of this change, people and groups affected by issues being discussed will, to some extent, be able to address the Council without being limited by their ability to travel to Geneva, as is usually the case. But being able to meet with and hear directly from human rights defenders in the room and in-person, whether through side events or statements, has long been a strength of the Council. The human rights defenders who attend Council sessions strengthen resolutions by providing first-hand information and serve to hold states to account, and their participation reinforces valuable partnerships. Like last session, opportunities to do so in-person will be very much missed.

    see individual member country ratings - ...

    Country-specific situations

    Nicaragua (Civic space rating: Repressed)

    Nicaragua is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. Ahead of elections in the country scheduled for this year, increasing restrictions on civic space and expressions of dissent remain a major concern, and likely to escalate. 

    A raft of repressive laws has been enacted that could seriously undermine freedom of association and free speech. In October 2020, Nicaragua’s lawmakers approved the “Foreign Agents Law” which expands government powers to control and muzzle civil society. The legislation requires civil society organisations that receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” and bars them from intervening in “matters of internal politics.” In December 2020, Nicaragua's National Assembly approved a law that could prevent opposition candidates from participating in the upcoming presidential elections. This law prohibits "traitors to the fatherland" ("Traidores a la Patria") from running for public office, defining such people in general terms. In January 2021, lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment permitting life sentences for “hate crimes”. Human rights defenders and journalists continue to be targets of death threats, intimidation, online defamation campaigns, harassment, surveillance, and assault. According to data collected by the press organisation Periodistas y Comunicadores Independientes de Nicaragua (Independent Journalists and Communicators of Nicaragua - PCIN), police, paramilitary groups and government supporters continue to be the most frequent perpetrators. 

    Attacks against civil society organisations, journalists and human rights defenders are early warning signs of an impending human rights crisis. The Human Rights Council must operationalise its prevention mandate by responding robustly to the upcoming High Commissioner’s report, including by enhancing monitoring and reporting on human rights violations, particularly in the context of the elections. Specifically, a resolution should:

    • Renew the enhanced OHCHR mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation in Nicaragua, and ensuring it is adequately resourced.
    • Mandate the High Commissioner to report regularly to the HRC on the situation in Nicaragua the context of interactive dialogues, including by intersessional briefings ahead of the elections in November.
    • Establish clear benchmarks for cooperation for Nicaragua to meet in order to prevent further Council action, including the repeal of repressive laws.
    • Express explicit support for human rights defenders and the role of civil society, including journalists.

    Myanmar (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    Myanmar is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. The Special Session on Myanmar this week is testament to the gravity of the situation in-country. A military coup d’état has left fundamental freedoms at grave risk; in a statement on 2 February, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet highlighted that the presence of militarised forces on the streets are giving rise to ‘deep fears of a violent crackdown on dissenting voices’. 

    As the military regime attempted to clamp down on information, pro-democracy activists launched a protest campaign dubbed the "Civil Disobedience Movement" in the capital Naypyidaw. They demanded the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained leaders and called on the military to respect the results of the country’s November 2020 election. Journalists in Myanmar have reported credible threats of an imminent, broader-sweeping crackdown on media workers, and several have told Human Rights Watch that they fear for their safety. Some local journalists had reportedly gone into hiding. According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), journalists are reporting increased surveillance of news reporting and journalists admitting to self-censorship since the coup.

    The elections last November 2020 were not only affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but censorship and discrimination. The discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law and the Election Law have been used to disenfranchise Rohingya and other opposition candidates to prevent them from running for office. 

    The CIVICUS Monitor has documented a sustained attack on civic freedoms in the country over the last few years. A repressive legal framework has been used to criminalise individuals for speaking out, reporting or protesting again human rights violations, including independent journalists and human rights defenders. The situation requires strong response from the Human Rights Council.

    We urge states to:

    • Support the renewal and strengthening of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, ensuring that the Special Rapporteur has sufficient resources, including human resources, to continue robust and ongoing monitoring of the situation including, given the gravity of the situation, resources for holding intersessional briefings to the Council.
    • Ensure inclusion in preambular and operative paragraphs in both resolutions of language around ending internet shutdowns, cessation of excessive use of force against peaceful protester, and protecting human rights defenders, and the need for accountability for violations perpetrated by state forces.
    • Highlight the crucial role of civil society, including human rights defenders.

    Sri Lanka (Civic space rating: Obstructed)

    Sri Lanka is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor. Civic freedom violations have persisted in Sri Lanka as President Rajapaksa’s party expands its powers. In October 2020, Parliament adopted amendments to the Sri Lankan Constitution, which serve to expand the powers of the President, while encroaching on the powers of Parliament and the courts. In recent months, there have been targeted arrests, intimidation and threats against the lives and physical security of lawyers, activists, human rights defenders and journalists. Groups seeking transitional justice for crimes during the country’s 26-year civil war held protests seeking answers especially on the disappeared but face harassment from the authorities.

    The UN has received continued allegations of surveillance of civil society organisations, human rights defenders, and families of victims of violations, including repeated visits by police and intelligence services, questioning organisations about their staff and activities related to the UN. Numerous civilian institutions, including the NGO Secretariat, have come under the control of the Ministry of Defence.

    The current administration’s reneging on its international commitments has put accountability and reconciliation processes under grave risk. This is being compounded by an escalation of attacks against civil society, particularly against groups and people working to further human rights. With NGOs who document, monitor and report on historic and current rights violations being raided and attacked, it is clear that much-publicized national accountability processes are in name only. It is crucial that the international community maintains a strong position on Sri Lanka, through a non-consensual resolution if necessary. States should support a strong resolution which emphasises accountability and implements the recommendations in the High Commissioner’s report, with particular calls for the furthering of accountability processes and protection of civil society. Failure to do so would impact significantly the Council’s credibility. 

    Specifically, the resolution should:

    • Request OHCHR to enhance its monitoring of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including progress towards accountability and reconciliation, and report regularly to the Human Rights Council;
    • Establish an independent international mechanism or process to investigate allegations of serious human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, secure evidence, and identify perpetrators for future prosecution.
    • Explicitly recognize civil society including human rights defenders for the role they play in documenting and monitoring.

    Zimbabwe (Civic space rating:Repressed)

    Zimbabwe is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. As the country’s economy continues to decline, workers and civil servants have sustained protest actions to call for better wages to cushion them from the resulting economic shocks. Protests have been met with forcefully dispersed, with police citing the ongoing curfew restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and arresting at least 20 protesters. The country’s situation has become a multi-layered crisis characterised by economic collapse, deepening poverty, corruption and human rights abuses. 

    Soldiers and police officers routinely forcefully dispersed the peaceful protest citing the ongoing curfew restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and arresting at least 20 protesters. It is commonplace for those arrested to be charged with inciting public violence. In 2020, the High Commissioner for Human Rights raised alarm at the situation when investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested on 20 July and charged with inciting public violence, after he tweeted his support for nationwide protests against government corruption and worsening economic conditions. He has since been released and re-arrested. Jacob Ngarivhume, an opposition leader who has been calling for the protests on 31 July, was also detained and similarly charged. These are warning signs of an escalating crisis. In the interests of furthering the Council’s prevention mandate, we call on states to raise Zimbabwe through statements, jointly or in their national capacity, offering support to civil society on the ground. 

    Such statements could include specifically:

    • Concerns about the worsening crackdown in Zimbabwe, particularly in the context of the debate on the High Commissioner’s report on COVID and human rights. 
    • Urging Zimbabwe to engage with civil society and other stakeholders to find sustainable solutions to grievances while ensuring that people’s rights and freedoms are protected in accordance with Zimbabwe’s human rights obligations.

    South Sudan (Civic space rating:Closed)

    South Sudan is rated as closed by the CIVICUS Monitor. In South Sudan, violence and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists continues as the UN extends the arms embargo and its sanctions regime. Despite hopes of peace following the formation of the transitional government of national unity formed by former warring factions on February 2020, fighting continues in several areas of the country, and dozens of people continue to die due to inter-communal fighting. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported that at least 5,000 civilians had been displaced by heavy fighting in Jonglei State. On 4 August 2020, at least 23 people were reported killed and 20 others wounded in an attack on a religious compound, where unidentified gunmen killed the deacon of the church and at least 14 women and children seeking refuge in the compound. 

    Despite hopes of peace following the formation of the transitional government of national unity formed by former warring factions on February 2020, fighting continues in several areas of the country, and dozens of people continue to die due to inter-communal fighting. As the Council recognised in June 2020, the mandate of the CHRSS should continue until such a point as demonstrable progress has been made against human rights benchmarks, and based on an assessment of risk factors of further violations. Necessary progress has not yet been made to consider a change of approach in this regard. As the only mechanism currently collecting and preserving evidence of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law with a view to accountability and addressing human rights and transitional justice issues in South Sudan from a holistic perspective, the CHRSS remains vital.

    A resolution extending the mandate of the CHRSS must:

    • Extend the mandate of the CHRSS in full under the same agenda item.
    • Call on the CHRSS to articulate clear human rights reform benchmarks or indicators against which any progress can be measured.
    • Call on the CHRSS to enhance its engagement with civil society and human rights defenders on deliverance of its mandate, giving due attention to the increasing restrictions, threats, and attacks civil society and media actors face. 

    Tanzania (Civic space rating: Repressed)

    Tanzania is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. In Tanzania, the increasing repression of democracy and civic space has deeply deteriorated environment for human rights. Several opposition parties have reported widespread irregularities in the process for enrolling candidates for the Presidential election on 28th October 2020. 17 opposition party members and critics of the government were arrested, with the increased oppression of opposition, suspension of human rights groups and the limiting of international media coverage of the elections being directly linked to the current government. In addition, the Tanzanian government continues to silence media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, most recently through the enactment of new online content regulations in early August 2020. Repression of what journalists can report on the pandemic is feared to stifle access to public health information.

    In the interests of furthering the Council’s prevention mandate, we call on states to raise Tanzania through statements, jointly or in their national capacity, offering support to civil society on the ground. 

    Such statements could include specifically:

    • Concerns about the worsening crackdown in Tanzania, particularly in the context of the debate on the High Commissioner’s report on COVID and human rights.

    Russia (Civic space rating: Repressed)

    Russia is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor. The recent crackdown by the Russian authorities on independent civil society and dissenting voices in the country. Russian authorities are systematically using the tools of the state to arbitrarily deprive citizens of liberty and curtail the exercise of the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. The alarming trends the international community has observed in Russia for more than a decade have been drastically increasing since the end of 2020 and require urgent international action.

    At the beginning of 2021, Russia took a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. As a member of the international body charged with the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, Russia’s active efforts to attack human rights domestically is particularly cynical. Members of the Council must use the 46th Session - Russia’s first session under its current membership - to strongly denounce these actions to use the tools of the state to attack independent civil society, severely limit civic space and silence dissenting voices.

    CIVICUS is among 85 local and international organisations which endorsed a letter sent to members of the Human Rights Council calling for immediate action to protect and promote human rights and strongly condemn the actions of the Russian authorities. Attacks by Council member states on independent civil society, civic space, and dissenting voices must not go unaddressed.

    Other countries of concern

    Poland and Togo, have been placed on the CIVICUS Monitor's Watchlist, along with Myanmar and Nicaragua, to reflect their sharp decline in civic freedoms. 

    In Poland, concerns about the deterioration of the rule of law and fundamental rights in Poland are long-standing and serious. Recently, a set of mass demonstrations against the near-total ban on abortion took place in Poland - a country whose abortion laws were already considered some of the most restrictive in Europe. There have been multiple reports of police brutality against protesters. The excessive use of force by police, disproportionate charges used against protesters, and speeches from public officials have encouraged further violence toward them. LGBTI rights remain under attack while public officials and opinion makers promote an atmosphere of hate and intolerance vis-à-vis LGBTI people in the country.

    In Togo, civic space has been backsliding since the crackdown on anti-government opposition protests in 2017-2018 to demand a return to the provisions in the 1992 constitution that included a two-term limit on presidents. The detention of journalist Carlos Ketohou on 29th December 2020, the suspension of newspaper l’Indépendant Express in January 2021 and the detention of trade unionists are recent examples of civic space violations, highlighting the deterioration in the respect of civic freedoms in the country. Other violations since 2017 include the killing of protesters, the arrest and prosecution of human rights defenders, journalists and pro-democracy activists, banning of civil society and opposition protests, the suspension of media outlets, regular disruption of and shutting down of access to the internet and social media, the adoption of restrictive legislation such as the 2018 Cybersecurity Law and the 2019 modification of the law on conditions and exercise of peaceful meetings and protests.

    Thematic situations

    Human rights defenders

    A chilling report will be presented to the Human Rights Council on human rights defenders who have been killed by state and non-state actors. The report highlights the warning signs which precede such killings, as well as accountability and justice – or lack thereof – which follows them. 

    The work and protection of human rights defenders is integral to the mission of the Human Rights Council. Environmental human rights defenders are working to ensure we continue to live in an inhabitable planet; those whistleblowing government violations are critical for maintaining a society built on rule of law and respect for rights. 

    We call on states to respond robustly to the report of the Special Rapporteur, including by naming specific human rights defenders who are detained or at risk, which we and our partners offers material protection to human rights defenders.

    COVID and human rights 

    The last months have demonstrated that more than ever civil society is needed in crisis response: in building and maintaining trust in the health system; identifying solutions that respond to the most urgent needs; and ensuring targeted and candid feedback on COVID-19 measures to improve responses. The report of the High Commissioner on the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the enjoyment of human rights around the world reflects this: ‘A vibrant civil society is essential to “building back better”, and the free flow of information and broad-based participation by civil society actors can help to ensure that the recovery responds to real needs and leaves no one behind.’

    Since the declaration of the pandemic, however, CIVICUS has documented a number of trends in governmental response which restrict civic space, including:

    • Unjustified restrictions on access to information and censorship;
    • Detentions of activists for disseminating critical information;
    • Crackdowns on human rights defenders and media outlets;
    • Violations of the right to privacy and overly broad emergency powers.

    We call on states to raise these concerns and recommendations in their response to the High Commissioner’s report on COVID and human rights, in the interests of a collaborative, participatory and effective approach to “building back better”. 

    Counter-terrorism and human rights

    According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, two-thirds of all communications sent to the mandate as part of monitoring human rights abuses are related to States’ use of counter terrorism, or broadly defined security measures to restrict civil society. A recent report states that, this extraordinarily high figure “underscores the abuse of counter-terror measures against civil society and human rights defenders since 2005.

    Human rights defenders from the Philippines, Pakistan and India, to name a few, have been targeted under misused counter-terror laws. We urge states to raise concerns about attacks and reprisals against human rights defenders in the name of countering terror and in driving a narrative of human rights defenders and civil society more broadly as antagonists rather than partners in counter-terrorism.


    Current council members:

    Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, BrazilBulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, CubaCzech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, FranceIndia, Gabon, GermanyIndonesia, Italy, JapanLibya, MalawiMarshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands,  PakistanPhilippinesPolandRepublic of Korea, RussiaSenegal, SomaliaSudan, Togo, UkraineUnited KingdomUruguay, UzbekistanVenezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

     

  • Advocacy priorities at the 48th Session of UN Human Rights Council

    The 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council will sit from 13 September - 08 October, 2021 and there are a number of critical human rights resolutions up for debate and for the 47 Council members to address. Stay up to date by following @civicusalliance and #HRC48 


    During the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council, CIVICUS encourage States to continue to raise the importance of civil society participation, which makes the Human Rights Council stronger, more informed and more effective.

    We look forward to engaging on a range of issues in line with our civic space mandate, set out in more detail below. In terms of country-specific situations on the agenda of the Council, CIVICUS will be engaging on resolutions on Cambodia and Burundi and debates on the Philippines, Myanmar, Venezuela and Tigray, as well as calling for formal Council action on Cameroonand for the for the urgent establishment of an investigative mechanism on Afghanistan.

    On thematic issues, CIVICUS will be engaging on the resolution on equal participation in public and political affairs and the resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

    CIVICUS will also engage in the panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests; the debate with the Working Group on arbitrary detentions; and the debate with the Working Group on enforced disappearances.

    Country-specific situations

    Cambodia

    Since the last resolution on Cambodia was negotiated and adopted at the Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session in September 2019, the human rights situation in the country has drastically worsened. Research undertaken by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that laws are routinely misused in Cambodia to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Human rights defenders, civil society activists and journalists are often subject to judicial harassment and legal action.

    These concerns have escalated over the past two years. COVID-19 and the government’s repressive response has only exacerbated restrictions on fundamental freedoms. Engagement by Cambodia with the Council to date has been minimal at best, with no tangible human rights progress to be seen, and weaponized by Cambodia at worst.

    Should the resolution continue its current cycle, the next opportunity for renegotiation on a Cambodia resolution would be September 2023: that is, after both commune elections set for July 2022 and national elections set for July 2023. The last round of elections in the country took place under, essentially, a one-party state. They were neither free nor fair. The next round of elections are likely to be even less so. The government has shuttered almost all independent media outlets and totally controls national TV and radio stations. Repressive laws – including the amendments to the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Law on Trade Unions – have resulted in severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It is imperative that the Council takes action with regards to these developments ahead of the next round of elections, and puts into place a robust monitoring mechanism to assess and address further election-related violations.

    The gravity of the situation, along with the current dire trajectory of human rights in Cambodia, merits action under Item 2 or indeed Item 4. We call on States to ensure that, at the minimum, an Item 10 resolution which adequately addresses the situation would include additional monitoring from the High Commissioner, particularly in the context of the lead-up to elections. A resolution should similarly highlight the deteriorating situation, raising particularly persisting restrictions on civic space and the repression of dissent; arbitrary arrests and detentions; acts of intimidation or reprisal; violations of the right to peaceful and public demonstrations; and repressive laws or decrees that unduly restrict the rights to the freedoms of expression and association.

    Cambodia is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Philippines

    The UN joint programme on human rights, developed to implement Human Rights Council resolution 45/33 and focusing on specific areas for capacity-building and technical cooperation, was signed into existence earlier this year. However, the Joint Programme does not further any steps towards accountability for the thousands of murders under the auspices of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, nor does it address their root causes. National efforts towards accountability have remain in name only; worryingly, they also serve to establish a false perception of sufficient action while atrocities continue as routine.

    The situation urgently requires direct accountability action by the Council. That the ICC Prosecutor, after a four-year process, has called for a full investigation into the Philippines confirms the severe gravity of the situation. The ICC only has jurisdiction on Philippine cases dating before the country’s official withdrawal for the Rome Statute in March 2019. It is therefore incumbent on the Council to investigate the violations that have continued past this date.

    During the Council’s 48th Session, we urge States to raise the Philippines in the Item 10 General Debate, drawing attention to the ongoing lack of tangible action towards accountability. We further call on States to consider a more robust response to the High Commissioner’s report with a Council-mandated independent investigative mechanism to address the ongoing systemic human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. This is clearly warranted by the situation set out in the 2020 OHCHR report as well as the demonstrable lack of adequate domestic investigative mechanisms.

    The Philippines is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Afghanistan

    CIVICUS is deeply concerned about the safety of human rights defenders, journalists and staff of civil society organisations in Afghanistan following the collapse of President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the takeover by the Taliban. The resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council during its Special Session in August 2021 in response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan failed to effectively address grave human rights violations in the country. The Council now has a further opportunity to respond affectively to the crisis by establishing an independent investigative mechanism.

    The Taliban have a track record of attacking civilians and engaging in reprisals against those who criticise them. Some have been abducted and killed. Following the takeover of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, human rights defenders have reported that lists of names of representatives of civil society have been revealed by the Taliban and raids have been carried out in their homes. Women human rights defenders and journalists are particularly at risk. Demonstrations, often led by women, have been violently dispersed. The courage of those calling for justice on the ground, at grave personal risk, cannot be overstated and it is vital that their efforts be supported by the international community.

    The failure of the Human Rights Council to address the human rights concerns of the people of Afghanistan and hold the Taliban accountable for its human rights violations was a missed opportunity. It must now take action to establish an urgent investigative mechanism to investigate all crimes under international law and human rights violations and abuses with a view to furthering accountability and justice – as called for by civil society, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, a number of Special Procedure mechanisms, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    Afghanistan is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Burundi

    Despite some improvements over the past year, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial or sustainable way. All the structural issues the CoI and other human rights actors have identified since 2015 remain in place. In recent months, there has been an increase in arbitrary arrests of political opponents or those perceived as such, as well as cases of torture, enforced disappearances and targeted killings, apparently reversing initial progress after the 2020 elections. Serious violations, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, continue. Impunity remains widespread, particularly relating to the grave crimes committed in 2015 and 2016. Even if some human rights defenders have been released, national and international human rights organisations are still unable to operate in the country.

    In the absence of structural improvements, and in view of the recent increase in human rights violations against persons perceived as government opponents, there is no basis, nor measurable progress, that would warrant a failure to renew the mandate of the CoI.

    We call on States to ensure continued scrutiny on Burundi through a resolution which continues documentation, monitoring, reporting, and debates on Burundi’s human rights situation, with a focus on justice and accountability.

    Burundi is rated as closed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Cameroon

    In the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions, abuses by armed separatists and Government forces continue to claim lives and affect people’s safety, human rights, and livelihoods. The grievances that gave rise to the “Anglophone crisis” remain unaddressed. In the Far North, the armed group Boko Haram continues to commit abuses against the civilian population. Security forces have also committed serious human rights violations when responding to security threats. In the rest of the country, Cameroonian authorities have intensified their crackdown on political opposition members and supporters, demonstrators, media professionals, and independent civil society actors, including through harassment, threats, arbitrary arrests, and detentions.

    We call on States to consider raising these concerns. A joint oral statement could include benchmarks for pro­gress, which, if fulfilled, will cons­ti­tute a path for Came­roon to improve its situation. If these bench­marks remain unfulfilled, then the sta­te­ment will pave the way for more formal Council action, inclu­ding, but not limited to, a reso­lution esta­bli­shing an in­vestigative and accoun­tability mechanism.

    Cameroon is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Myanmar

    Since the military coup of 1 February, over 800 people have been unlawfully killed, most during protests and with impunity. More than four thousand activists, protesters, journalists and politicians have been arbitrarily detained and some activists are facing trumped-up charges, including of treason. There have also been credible first-hand reports of torture or other ill-treatment of political prisoners by the military. Despite the intimidation and violence by the security forces, the anti-coup protests continue, but the military has amended laws to impose restrictions on civic space and imposed internet blackouts.

    A strong resolution adopted in the Council’s 46th Session in response to the military coup in Myanmar mandated reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. We strongly encourage States to engage in the interactive debates following the updates of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rightsand the progress report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.

    Myanmar’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is due to be adopted at this Session after being posponded from the Council’s 47th Session. CIVCIUS and other national and international organisations strongly urges the Council to postpone again the adoption of the outcomes of Myanmar’s UPR Council amid the military coup. We further call on the Member and Observer States of the Human Rights Council to reject the representative of the Myanmar military junta to the UN Offices in Geneva and recognize the National Unity Government formed on the basis of the outcomes of the November 2020 elections as the legitimate government of the people of Myanmar.

    Myanmar is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Ethiopia

    The resolution adopted during the Council’s 47th Session, which ensures Council scrutiny on the Tigray region of Ethiopia, was a vital step towards preventing further human rights violations and abuses in Tigray and furthering accountability.

    Since Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy came to power in April 2018, his initially much-lauded domestic reforms have been severely undermined by ethnic and religious conflicts that have left thousands dead. Conflict broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020 between the Ethiopian army and the leading party in the Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Since then, an overwhelming number of reports have emerged of abuses and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including a surge in sexual violence and assault, massacres of civilians, and reports of ethnic cleansing. There have been widespread arrests of and attacks against journalists covering the conflict.

    We encourage States to engage in the enhanced ID on the High Commissioner’s update on the situation of human rights in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, and particularly on questions relating to ensuring accountability for crimes perpetrated.

    Ethiopia is rated as repressed in the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Nicaragua

    Since 2018, President Ortega’s administration has precipitated a socio-political and human rights crisis in Nicaragua. Human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition have been subjected to acts of intimidation, arrests and detentions by security agents. In March 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution in response to human rights violations which renews and strengthens scrutiny on Nicaragua. In March 2021, Nicaragua was placed on the CIVICUS Monitor Watch List, due to concerns about the country’s rapidly declining civic space.

    The situation continues to deteriorate; just months before the November elections, the authorities have increased their attacks against members of the political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists. Nicaraguan human rights defender Medardo Mairena Sequeira was detained a month ago as part of a wave of arrests targeting activists and people who expressed their desire to stand for the Presidency ahead of Presidential elections scheduled for November 2021. In addition to Medardo, those detained include labour leaders Freddy Navas Lopes, Pablo Morales and Pedro Joaquin Mena. Many of those arrested are accused of complicity in the kidnapping and killing of police officers in 2018 during large scale protests that swept through Nicaragua that year. The authorities have stated that they are investigating those arrested for inciting foreign interference and violating national sovereignty.

    The government has not adopted any electoral reforms – a key ask of the resolution adopted in March 2021. On the contrary, for several months, leaders and members of Unamos have been subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions. The authorities have also imposed travel bans on other members of the political opposition and civil society, and froze their bank accounts.

    At a critical time for Nicaragua, we call on States to take the opportunity to call for the immediate and unconditional release of political opposition, human rights defenders and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained, as well as for Nicaragua to implement crucial electoral reforms as a matter of urgency.

    Nicaragua is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Venezuela

    The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) will present is second report to the Council during the 48th Session. With local elections due for November 2021, the ongoing scrutiny of the FFM is vital. Parliamentary elections held in December 2020 were neither free nor fair, and the environment for enjoyment of fundamental democratic freedoms has deteriorated still further since then.

    A raft of repressive laws and ordinances introduced this year risks restricting the work of CSOs in the country, and highlights a growing trend identified by the FFM in March: that of the targeting of individuals and non-governmental organizations engaged in humanitarian and human rights work. Such laws would have a devastating impact on organisations working to provide much needed humanitarian assistance in the country.

    Restrictions on freedom of expression continue; recent attacks against media outlets include the raid and seizure of newspaper El Nacional, and acts of arson of the offices of media outlet CNP in Sucre. 153 media outlets were affected by digital censorship in Venezuela in 2020. As people continue to take to the streets in the context of a dire socioeconomic situation, security forces continue to use excessive force against protesters. Local organisations reported that during the first four months of 2021, 23 demonstrations were repressed, and one person killed.

    Venezuela has shown some indications of engagement with regional actors; however, it continues to refuse to engage with the FFM and its ongoing processes. We urge States to engage with the dialogue of the FFM and to ensure its adequate funding, and, in line with an emphasis on accountability, to consider investigating and prosecuting those identified by the FFM to be suspected of committing crimes under international law. We further call on States to support the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in using FFM findings to determine whether to open a formal investigation into Venezuela.

    Venezuela is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor.


     Thematic situations

    Resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs

    Equal participation in political and public affairs relies on access to information and the protection and promotion of the freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. In the last two years, these preconditions have been put under severe strain by the COVID-19 pandemic and its responses. In particular, participation has been impeded by rollbacks in democratic freedoms engendered by governmental response to the pandemic; the growing phenomenon of internet shutdowns; the impact of a growing digital divide; and elections postponed on grounds of both genuine public health concerns but also overreach of emergency powers.

    During 2020 and into 2021, the CIVICUS Monitor documented a range of restrictions on rights introduced by governments under the pretext of protecting people’s health and lives which had a significant impact on democratic rights. This includes the use of restrictive legislation to silence critical voices, including through the proposal, enactment and amendment of laws on the basis of curbing disinformation.

    According to a report published by Clement Voule, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of association and peaceful assembly, in June 2021, Internet shutdowns continue to be “a growing global phenomenon.” These measures have the ultimate aim of stifling dissent, stopping the free flow of information, and concealing grave human rights violations. More broadly, online forms of participation expedited owing to the pandemic have shown starkly the impact of unequal access to the internet - the digital divide - on equal participation. At times of crisis, it is even more critical that people have a voice, and a platform where they can hold their governments to account.

    This is particularly the case as a number of governments postponed elections as a result of the health crisis, with corresponding impact on the right to participation. From 21 February 2020 until 21 August 2021, at least 79 countries and territories across the globe decided to postpone national and subnational elections. The postponement of elections can be a legal and legitimate response to emergencies, to avoid diverting resources from more urgent life-saving work. In this context, however, there was a real risk that the pandemic was used for political purposes. This was particularly prevalent in States with a narrowed, repressed or closed civic space, and often in line with the establishment of restrictive emergency laws which similarly curtailed freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

    We encourage States to support a resolution which highlights and seeks to address these barriers to equal participation which have been engendered or exacerbated by COVID-19, in order to strengthen such participation.

    Peaceful Protests

    In a report presented to the Human Rights Council at its 47th Session, Special Rapporteur Clement Voule described Internet shutdowns as “a growing global phenomenon.” Authorities in Myanmar, Iran, India, Chad, Belarus and Cuba, among others, have particularly turned to shutdowns in response to, or to pre-empt protest. The number of governments imposing internet shutdowns during mass demonstrations continues to grow, and shutdowns have increased in length, scale and sophistication.

    HRC res. 44/20, adopted by the Council in 2020, mandated a panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests, with a particular focus on achievements and contemporary challenges, to be held during the Council’s 48th Session. It also mandated a report by the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations.

    Crises take interrelated forms which have socio-political impacts. In response to such crises, governments across the world have increasingly imposed internet shutdowns, which have a serious impact on the rights to assembly and other civic-space related rights. Shutdowns have been used as pre-emptive tools against peaceful assemblies, and have been especially deployed to target marginalized and at-risk populations. Such shutdowns, often implemented hand in hand with other repressive tactics against protesters, facilitate abuses and gross human rights violations committed in the context of peaceful protests.

    We call on States to engage with the panel discussion on peaceful protests and raise the increasing issue of internet shutdowns.

    Resolution on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights

    UN action is only possible with strong engagement from civil society on the ground, who not only provide information and analysis, but are on the front line of ensuring that human rights standards are respected by their own governments, and that violations are held to account. Reprisals have a significant impact on citizen participation at every level of the international human rights infrastructure and are another example of civic space being squeezed.

    At the moment, there is no political cost to States engaging in reprisals. There are a number of emerging trends in types of reprisals leveled against individuals and civil society – false narratives driven on social media and the engagement of non-state actors being just two such escalating tends.

    Until such a political cost is established, the only deterrent to States engaging in this practice remains to publicly name them. We recommend that States use the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary General to raise specific cases of reprisals – cases of reprisals in Egypt, Bahrain, Viet Nam and China are particularly prevalent.

    CIVICUS also recommends that reprisals taking place within the UN itself are highlighted – such as that perpetrated by the delegate of Cambodia against prominent Cambodian human rights defender and monk, Venerable Luon Sovath, during a debate held in the Human Rights Council’s 45th Session.

    Current council members:

    Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, BrazilBulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Côte d'Ivoire, CubaCzech Republic, Denmark, Eritrea, Fiji, FranceGabon, GermanyIndiaIndonesia, Italy, JapanLibya, MalawiMarshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, NetherlandsPakistanPhilippinesPolandRepublic of Korea, RussiaSenegal, SomaliaSudan, Togo, UkraineUnited KingdomUruguay, UzbekistanVenezuela

    Civic space ratings from the CIVICUS Monitor

    OPEN NARROWED OBSTRUCTED  REPRESSED CLOSED

     

     

     

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